Christmas lights burnt out

Trash Talk

Judy Linda-HornDecember 5, 2012 

We all do it this time of year... We start to sort through our Christmas lights, plugging them in, finding burned-out bulbs, trying to change out the little bulbs to see if we can salvage the string that worked just fine last year... Finally, out of frustration, we toss the whole mess and add "new lights" to our ever growing holiday shopping list. There is a better option.

Lowe's collects and recycles burned-out Christmas lights all year long, as well as CFL bulbs and batteries. The receptacles at Lowe's are located in the "returns" area just inside the front doors. Used incandescent holiday light strings are separated into their material streams -- glass, plastic, copper and steel -- and then sent to recyclers to be made into new products. So Lowe's makes it easy to recycle and shop at the same time.

According to the customer service department at Home Depot, old, broken, or used holiday light strings are accepted for recycling, but only during the first two weeks of November. I discussed this with the management, who agreed that was an odd policy. So, I wrote to their corporate office and suggested expanding the dates, as most people won't hang onto their old burned-out lights until the following year. They do score some points though with the following offer for customers: for each unwanted incandescent light string brought in, customers will receive a coupon of up to $5 off new LED Christmas lights.

Regarding LED lights -- they use 80% less energy than their incandescent counterparts and can last up to ten times longer. However, they offer other benefits beyond saving energy and money. Because LEDs are cool to the touch, they're less likely to cause Christmas tree fires. LEDs are also more durable and shock-resistant than other lights because they do not have moving parts, filaments or glass.

I also checked in at the local True Value store; currently they do not have a policy for recycling lights, Christmas or otherwise. Hence, I wrote to their corporation headquarters as well and offered a number of suggestions related to the recycling needs of their patrons. It would be nice to be able to recycle bulbs and light strings locally and to then support the stores with our subsequent purchases.

Recycling Christmas tree lights keeps them out of land fills, which is beneficial for our environment. Wouldn't you feel better about recycling your old lights rather than tossing them in the trash can?

Sandee Scott, KOMB's treasurer, adds "Not to be a Grinch, but another option is to not use Christmas lights at all. Yes, they are pretty, but are they really a good use of earth's resources?"

Please join us -- Keep Our Mountains Beautiful -- as we reduce, reuse and recycle and advocate for easier and convenient ways to do so in our mountain community.

References: retail store websites; telephone interviews of store personnel.

For more information on KOMB, or to become a supporting member call (559) 877-2361 or (559) 760-1058.

For more information on KOMB, or to become a supporting member call (559) 877-2361 or (559) 760-1058.

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